[Last Film I Watched] The Hawks and the Sparrows (1966)

The Hawks and the Sparrows poster

English Title: The Hawks and the Sparrows
Original Title: Uccellacci e uccellini
Year: 1966
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Writers:
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Dante Ferretti
Music: Ennio Morricone
Cinematography:
Mario Bernardo
Tonino Delli Colli
Cast:
Totò
Ninetto Davoli
Femi Benussi
Gabriele Baldini
Flaminia Siciliano
Renato Montalbano
Renato Capogna
Umberto Bevilacqua
Rating: 7.5/10

The Hawks and the Sparrows 1966

Pasoloni’s fourth feature, an all-encompassing allegory about our society, is told in the form of a road movie about a pair of father and son, played by Totò and a young Ninetto Davoli, rambling in the outskirt of Rome (aimlessly at first, later, it will turn out that they are on the way to collect a debt).

The opening sequence itself is an out-of-the-blue gambit, the movie’s credits are not only shown, but also literally belted out by Domenico Modugno in his cheery tune along with Morricone’s allegro theme music, are we going to watch a quintessential Totò’s commedia dell’arte?

Yes, and the picture also proves much more than that, Totò, although visibly ailing (he was almost completely blind at that time and would pass away one year later at the age of 69), perks up in a semblance of Charlie Chaplin in his suit-and-tie and an umbrella in his grasp, while Ninetto, improvises his comical naivety, together they form an odd duo contrasted and complemented each other with worldliness and guilelessness, command and obedience, incessantly, shimmering with amicable personae and gentle slapstick.

After rubbernecking a dead body being taken out of a house, the pair meets a talking crow, surrealism has never been so whimsically grafted upon the neo-realist soil. The crow is a self-claimed Marxist, recounts a story of two Franciscan friars (also played by Totò and Davoli) in the 13th Century, who are adjured by St. Francis to preach Gospel to the hawks and the sparrows, an endeavour has taken them months and months, and two very varying approaches, one through voice, another through movement, that is the genius in Pasolini’s conviction, different species, different tactics, old ways might not always work, ultimately and most sagaciously, love cannot alter the inherent qualities of each species, predators will remain being predators, so are preys, these roles are destined by nature, don’t underestimate or over-estimate the power of religion.

Back to the present, the trio experiences several episodes of mundane circulations, obscenity and misunderstanding foster belligerence, people are constantly adjusting their roles between a creditor and a debtor, poverty, being a Good Samaritan and beholding the birth of a new life, then to manifestation of his own political slant, the news footage of Palmiro Togliatii’s funeral in 1964, whose was the prominent leader of the Italian Communist Party, has usurped the picture for several minutes, a very personal imprint which also revives the collective memory.

Finally, a chance meeting with a young prostitute Luna (Benussi) leads the movie back to a flippant mood, and the ruination of the leftist crow, not just being too garrulous, also, it has to take the risk at its own peril, being a symbol of a passé ideal, communism is something nipped just out of the bud in Italy.

A simple-in-structure, but immense-in-ideology prose, THE HAWKS AND THE SPARROWS are more accessible than Pasolini’s other works, and also proffers to a nostalgic eye, a close observation of a legendary comedian’s consuming caper in his twilight year, and Ennio Morricone’s score has reached a new landmark in its audial vitality and emotional punch.

Oscar 1966 The Hawks and the Sparrows

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